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God and Suffering
Seeing Suffering from God's Perspective
In our last article on this subject entitled "Why Suffering?" we learned several biblical facts. Firstly, Scripture indicates that suffering and death were not part of God's original creation. Mankind was placed in a paradise that had no sickness, pain, or death.
Everything was fine until sin entered the world through Adam. Now all mankind are sinners by nature and by choice (Romans 5:12). That sin affected all of creation, and the creation is now literally groaning, waiting to be released from its bondage to the effects of sin (Romans 8:22).
But Jesus Christ took upon Himself sin and its penalty, death. And He made it possible that sin, suffering and death will one day be eradicated from this earth. When Christ returns, that will happen, and there will be no more mourning, crying or pain.
But now the question is, why didn't God create a world without the possibility of pain in the first place? Why does He allow accidents, starvation, illnesses, crime and wars? Although I don't claim to have all of the answers, there are some things we need to think about.
I. Freewill Brings the Possibility of Suffering
If you think about it, God had to allow for the possibility of suffering the effects of rebellion if He wanted creatures that had free will and who would serve Him willingly. Suffering, as we've stated, is a result of sin . Man himself brought sin into the environment in which he lived. If he had made a different choice, paradise would still be his and there would be no suffering or death.
And consider further that much pain and suffering is still directly caused by those who choose to live outside the bounds of God's law. Murder, theft and child abuse are just a few examples of man's free will in action. And much of the starvation that takes place is a result of bad governments that would rather line their own pockets than take care of their people. Of course, if these people were never held accountable for this, then you could see the injustice of God. However, all men will ultimately give and account of their actions to a holy God.
II. God has an Eternal Perspective on Suffering
We have to be careful here not to say that every individual in this world that is suffering is undergoing this because there is some unconfessed sin in their lives. That is just not true. Look at the book of Job, for instance. Or the instance of the man born blind in John 9. People asked Christ whether he or his parents sinned that this man should be born like this. Jesus answered them this way:
"It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in Him" (John 9:3).
Shortly after this, the Lord healed him of his blindness. God used the blindness of this man to show Christ's ability to heal. Apparently, in this case, that is why he was born without sight.
What we have to realize is that we only see a little bit of life and of the eternal plans of God. He knows the end from the beginning. He sees the big picture. And suffering, no matter how hard it seems today, has an ultimate greater benefit. We can expect no less from a holy and loving God.
If you are a child, a trip to the doctor to get vaccinations to prevent disease is a terrible thing. All you think about is how it's going to hurt. But your parents know that if you don't get these vaccinations you could get some terrible disease. So, your parents may sympathize with you. It may even make them cry to see you in pain. But they allow you to get the vaccinations anyway, knowing that this is best for you.
III. Two Examples of Redemptive Suffering
If we know our Old Testament, we've probably heard the story of Joseph. Because of the jealousy of his brothers, they sold him into slavery. He ended up in Egypt, and ultimately was put into power. The only person who had more power than Joseph was Pharaoh.
God used the power that He gave to Joseph to save the children of Israel and all of Egypt from starvation during the long famine that took place at that time. After the death of Jacob, Joseph's brothers thought that he was going to get even with them. But Joseph had this to say to them:
"Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is another example of redemptive suffering. He is the only person in history that was born without sin. And He committed no sin in His entire life. But we see that our Lord became the suffering servant. He went through great pain on the cross of Calvary, and then died in our place.
Apart from what the Bible tells us, this would seem like a great tragedy and a terrible miscarriage of justice. But Scripture tells us that the suffering of our Savior lead to the greatest salvation experience in history, the salvation of the world.
In the same way God knows why He allows all suffering, and is using it for our good and His glory.
I love what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:18. In this verse he speaks of the present sufferings of this world. He says:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
When it gets right down to it, the longest life that is lived on this earth today is not much over 100 years. And most of us live a lot less than that. Compared with eternity, that is nothing. This present life is like a drop of water in the ocean compared to the life we'll spend in heaven. We can thank God that no matter what we are going through on this earth, God knows about it. He cares that we are suffering. However, He has a wonderful plan that includes using that experience for good. That is God's promise. And our God always keeps His promises.